By Roger Paradiso
Adam Driver plays Daniel Jones, a staffer for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) chaired by Senator Diane Feinstein, played by Annette Benning. She is asked to create a report on the FBI and CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program created during President Bush’s War on Terror.
The Report is a reckoning for America, which is not supposed to be torturing prisoners of war. Driver crafts a fascinating performance based on the true story of Daniel Jones, a former FBI investigator who now leads investigations for the Senate. This is a film that could have been a documentary but was turned by director Scott Z. Burns into a reenactment of a true story and a study of obsession and perseverance. There are many producers, but the one who probably got this picture made is Steven Soderbergh, who is known for his documentary-like films Sex, Lies and Videotape and Traffic.
We watch in fascination and horror as Jones starts digging into government records in his bunker-like research room deep in the bowels of the CIA. He is helped by a few other staffers including a fictitious April—in real life Alissa Starzak, a former CIA lawyer—who leaves after several years, disgusted by what she is learning not only about the torture but about the low odds of the report ever being released.
Jones has frequent clashes with Feinstein, who must get this through a partisan Senate and White House Chief of Staff Jon Hamm (think Rahm Emanuel), who is trying to play politics. You feel certain that Feinstein will fire him any minute as Jones is so consumed with his report that he turns in a 6,700-page document. Feinstein worries about this report stalling in Congress and never getting out. She also knows that if she loses her chairmanship, the Republicans will bury the report.
Jones is so determined to get this report out to the public that he leaks some information to a New York Times reporter who is also researching the CIA’s interrogation methods. When the Times starts printing some parts of this story, Jones is called in to the office of Feinstein and read the riot act. However, she does not fire him.
Finally, after seven years of writing the report, the SSCI tries to release a 525-page executive summary. Facing redactions from the CIA and weak support from the White House, we see Feinstein maneuvering this report in and out of committees and around politicians.
Frustrated, Jones goes to meet the reporter from the New York Times. Does he give them the full report or not? Who will be the hero in this story?
The story does have heroes besides Jones and Feinstein. Senator John McCain, who was tortured in Vietnam, and Senator Mark Udall put their names on it. It’s fascinating how a few men and women of conviction can put their careers on the line to speak the truth to power.
As we head into the impeachment of Donald Trump, this is a prescient film. Let’s commend Amazon Studios for picking up this independent film after its debut in January of 2019 at the Sundance Film Festival. The cast is superb, supported by Jon Hamm as a fictitious Chief of Staff, Scott Shepherd as courageous Senator Mark Udall D-Colorado and Ted Levine as John Brennan, head of the CIA.
The Report is now on Amazon Prime after a small national release.
Rated R, for some scenes of inhumane treatment and torture, and language
Running time: 1 hour, 58 minutes